| By Steven Kaplan

I have a special love for the French Open, which is starting in a few weeks. Roland Garros is truly unique in that it is a beautiful, intimate club much like The West Side Tennis Club, the former home of The U.S. Open. It is a civilized place with exhilarating, strategic tennis aided by the slowed pace of the gritty court surface. The French Open represents the unofficial start to the summer, and after this last winter's snow, I cannot wait!

The best men's clay court player of the Open era, Rafael Nadal, will be the heavy favorite to tie Bjorn Borg's record of six titles. The women's side looks to be a bit more open.

My Top Five Men's Clay Court Tennis Players of the Open Era:

1. Rafael Nadal
2. Bjorn Borg
3. Ivan Lendl
4. Gustavo Kuerten
5. Guillermo Vilas

My Top Five Women's Clay Court Tennis Players of the Open Era:

1. Chris Evert
2. Stephanie Graff
3. Justine Henin
4. Monica Seles
5. (Tie) Martina Navratilova & Arantxa Shanchez-Vicario

Steven Kaplan

Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.